Screening on Film
Directed by Luis Buñuel.
With Silvia Pinal, Francisco Rabal, Fernando Rey.
Spain/Mexico, 1961, 35mm, black & white, 91 min.
Spanish with English subtitles.
Print source: HFA

After years of exile that saw him working in the U.S., France, and principally Mexico, Luis Buñuel returned to his native Spain to make this dark account of corruption. Viridiana was produced with the blessings of the Spanish government and under the scrutiny of its censors, but only after its release did Franco’s regime realize the film’s meaning; they promptly banned it. Viridiana, like the priest in Buñuel’s Nazarin, is a "saint" whose virtues lead to terrible misfortunes, not only for herself but for others. Sylvia Pinal gives a superb performance as the young novitiate, full of charity, kindness, and idealistic illusions about humanity, who visits her uncle (a closet transvestite) and tries to help some local peasants and beggars. The final beggars’ orgy—a black parody of the Last Supper, performed to the ethereal strains of Handel’s "Messiah"—is one of the director’s most memorably disturbing, wickedly humorous scenes. Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival, Viridiana welcomed Buñuel back to the center stage of world cinema.

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